Last week at Career Day, one of the 6th grade participants turned a question to me. She said that after going to both of my kids’ tables, it was clear to her that I was raising a couple of prodigies. How, she asked, did I as a parent know to nurture these gifts? This girl was clearly ahead of the game herself, already identifying and analyzing the important role that parents play in the development of their children. I was impressed.
I told her that I simply watched my children’s play when they were little. I’ve talked about this in past blog posts, but Eva became a storyteller when she learned to talk. She narrated the art she was making: it was never just a picture of a flower – if you asked her what she painted, she would go into great detail about the story that was unfolding on the paper. She also narrated her dolls in play: “‘Let’s go to the park.’ she said. ‘OK,’ he replied.” She read her playtime like a book.
For Ian, well, Ian started drumming and performing as soon as he could stand as well. The story has become almost famous now about how he mimicked two hour rock concerts back when he was still in diapers.
But that’s where it happened for them. I observed what gave them the greatest joy and dreamed up ways I could help them pursue these things more fully. This was never about turning them into career machines; it was about giving them more opportunities to explore the things that made them happy. I’m not saying the going never gets tough. Like any other parent, many times I have had to insist on a certain amount of time for practice, or help make attainable (though resisted) goals like “you must write 10 sentences every day.” That’s just a natural part of any discipline. But when you ask them, both kids will say eagerly that it’s worth it.
This leads me to another interaction via email last week. I was talking with a woman from the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, and she mentioned that her young son was into theater. She was impressed with what all my kids were accomplishing and wanted to know how we managed it. So I thought for about 30 seconds and excitedly exploded back to her all sorts of thoughts about how one could pursue theater. As long as the interest is there, a kid who loves theater can explore famous and historic plays, acting, directing, script writing, lighting, set building, sound effects, costume design, and makeup. By exploring these avenues, the child would be learning literature, history, writing skills, communication, leadership, technology, art, critical thinking and problem solving. Wow! Just through a love of theater. If the love stuck, this child could orient the whole of his education around his passion. The opportunities are endless; this is when project based learning is at its best.
The thing is, there are many interests that could be explored in this way – perhaps all of them. I haven’t thought through every possible interest, so I really don’t know. But I imagine with some creative brainstorming, you could come up with some fabulous ideas. Just take the foundation interest and think about it both forwards and backwards. Does the interest have a history? How can you branch off and explore history through that lens? What about its present? Think about every last aspect of the interest and explore them all. Then think about its future. Are there potential innovations that the child could explore? When the student is invested and passionate about the topic, she is more engaged. This is where we jump the track of learning for a grade and land in the wide open world of empowerment, creative thinking, and self-motivated education.
Do you know of any kids with an interest that could be explored further? Mention them in the comments and let’s brainstorm an individualized education plan!
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